The last couple of weeks I have been watching number 7 from Stanford run the football. He can really play. I’ve got to tell you I’m surprised he’s this good. I just assumed …

Anyway, the kid’s name is Toby Gerhart. Not usually the kind of name we hear being called a potential star NFL running back.


As of his last game – a loss to Cal, Gerhart had rushed for 1531 yards and 23 touchdowns. He scored four touchdowns against Cal.

Toby Gerhart is busting stereotypes. He is big and fast and can run you over. Plus as a bonus – he can make you miss. The last part – can make you miss – is why running back is the blackest position in football. But the very white Gerhart might just be the next great white runner.

It has been a long time since a white guy was taken seriously – by anybody – running the ball.

John Riggins comes to mind. He retired 25 years ago. These days most of the time the white guy gets to play fullback with a big white collar around his neck. He’s the stubby blocker who never gets to run with the ball. This is apparently how it should be according to football’s decision makers. Well at least that’s what their actions seem to be saying.

And most of us tend to agree with their stereotypes.

There is not a league in sports that stereotypes more than the NFL. White guys get to play the “smart” positions – quarterback, center, head coach.

Black guys get the speedy, athletic positions – running back, cornerback, wide receiver.

Position by position the numbers don’t lie. And it seems most of us are just fine with these statistical stereotypes.

But Toby Gerhart might actually defy our assumptions. He is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. And he might actually get to run the ball next year in the NFL.

If he does get to play and run as a pro, I will cheer him on. Because for every successful Toby Gerhart, there will hopefully be another minority coach or quarterback.

Stereotypes have held us all back for too long.

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  1. steve johnson says:

    It would be interesting to see the list of white half-backs in the last 30-40 years. The list of black QBs has gone way up. But I can truly only think of a handful of “name” white running backs.

    Matt Suhey (since I am a Chicago boy)
    Mike Alstott
    John Riggins

    Is Larry Csonka too far back? Did Heisman Trophy winner (the last white RB winner) John Cappaletti ever do anything in the pros?

    Love the column!

  2. DavidBurnett says:

    Thanks for reading and the nice words Steve. Appreciate it. There are just not that many who get to run very often. Maybe one or two guys a year if that. Csonka was really good in his day. I think he was done by 1980. Cappalleti did nothing that I can recall.

  3. Tom says:

    Craig James was the last 1000 yard rusher I believe.

    That is insane.

    This article is about 15 years too lame. Those are some older stereotypes.